The first steps towards the proposed transfer of Catholic Primary schools to other patron bodies needs further examination, Bishop Colm O’Reilly has warned.
Nearly 50 communities across the country have been earmarked as sites where the Catholic Church should hand over control of schools.
The first phase of the process includes no fewer than 250 schools, meaning at least one school in each diocese could be affected by the planned changes.
According to Bishop O’Reilly however, the long-awaited report chaired by the Forum for Patronage and Pluralism, contains a number of underlying difficulties.
“I was talking about this very thing at St Eimer’s recently. What we need to do is learn more about the schools that we do have,” he said.
Bishop O’Reilly was eager to get across the message the present system, whereby 92 per cent of primary schools currently under the control of the Catholic Church has shown little sign of distress.
“As it is, the present system is working well,” he said, adding that Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn’s blueprint for educational reform is “over-optimistic on the part of the Minister and the Department”.
The report sets out a detailed formula for the handover process, which is aimed at creating a greater choice of primary schools.
As well as providing greater choice on grounds of religion, the advisory body also recommends that more all-Irish schools should emerge from the process to meet demand from parents.
One of the report’s more divisive findings recommends that the preparation of sacraments take place outside of schools with guidelines also provided for religious and non-religious artefacts.
It’s an approach which Bishop O’Reilly believes will shift more responsibility for religious teaching onto the shoulders of parents and local communities.
“That is one thing that I am always saying to parents at the end of Mass. Their role becomes even more important at the end of primary school,” he said.
Proposed changes for the handover are, meanwhile, expected to be announced by the Government later this month.